Packrafting Warche and Amblève

Hi folks!

I’m back from Chile! At the very end of our campaign we had a day left and went to the Andes east of Santiago. Unfortunately, we had the one and only bad weather day of the entire summer with even fresh snow above 3000m. But staying in our camp was not that bad as we had a 35°C volcanic hot spring right next to the tent! In the evening the weather cleared and we could quickly hike up a nose (about 3300m) closeby to admire the alpenglow on 6000m summits surrounding us, a mighty view!

Spring is starting in Belgium! Last weekend, I made an overnight packrafting trip on the Warche and Amblève rivers in the Ardennes together with Joery. We put in on a not so idyllic spot in the middle of the industry park of Malmedy. The Warche was a very interesting river (for Belgian standards). For river bank stabilisation, a small veir out of quartzite boulders has been constructed every 100-200m, creating nice PR3-4 rapids. It was the wildest water I packrafted so far. After the confluence with the Amblève, the paddling remained very nice with long PR2-3 rapids and boulder gardens. We camped in a meadow outside Stavelot.

After some rain during the night (not enough to increase the discharge though) we continued paddling for an hour before portaging the Coo waterfalls. Here, the Amblève plunges down about 15m, making it the highest Belgian waterfall. It is not natural though; monks created it in the 17th century by cutting a narrow meander of the Amblève to protect the Petit-Coo village from floodings.

After the waterfall the character of the river changed dramatically – the boulder garders disappeared, rapids became shorted, more dispersed and more of the wave-train type. We continued paddling for another 14km until the hydroelectricity dam near Lorcé. Most of the water is tapped here for electricity production and the water level downstream of the dam, in the famous Fonds de Quareux rapids (4km long boulder garder, up to PR4), unfortunately was too low to continue packrafting. We walked the last few kilometers back to the car. The nice weather is set to continue and I’m planning to raft another meandering river in the Ardennes, the Semois, next weekend.

In the meantime, I’m still busy preparing the last part of the route for my Scandinavia crossing. I hope to post the last details in a few weeks. It is becoming quite clear that the first month of the journey will be very hard. Southern Norway had a very wet winter, and snow depth on the high mountain plateaus like Setesdalsheiane and Hardangervidda is often almost twice the norm for mid-march. Some parts of Setesdalsheiane have not seen as much snow since 1971! Should I take ski’s?

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